In James Lapine's musical Into the Woods, Cinderella's Prince explains, "I was born to be charming, not sincere."
At the beginning of the 2014 Hindi film Khoobsurat (Beautiful) the prince is charming but cool and distant. As the story unfolds, we see him learn to embrace a life that is genuine.
The story centers around successful physiotherapist Dr. Mrinalini "Mili" Chakravarty (Sonam Kapoor) who is hired by a wealthy, royal family in Rajasthan. She is the 40th physician hired to treat King Shekhar Singh Rathore (Aamir Raza Hussain) who has become confined to a wheelchair. But the real story centers on the impact Mili has on the household. Disney India explains:
Khoobsurat is a quirky, modern romantic comedy about what happens when a vibrant, hopelessly romantic physiotherapist meets a handsome young Rajput prince [the son of Raja Shekhar Singh Rathore] who is the complete opposite of her – and is engaged to someone else. It is a battle of values between two individually crazy families — one that encourages discipline and self-restraint versus the other, which is all for spontaneity and open-mindedness.
If you are new to India culture, it is important to note that the title of "king" or "raja" is more hereditary than political. In 1971, the Constitution of India was amended removing any status or title these kings and queens and their children can/could hold. According to The Royal Ark, however, the royal nomenclature is still used in some circumstances.
What makes Khoobsurat endearing is the contrasting ways the characters interact with the world around them. While the upper class wealthy Rajput family is calm, quiet, reserved, and impersonal, the middle class Punjabi/Bengali family is active, loud, outgoing, and good-humored.
From the moment Mili walks on to the Rathore estate, she appears to bring trouble to the Rathore household. She faces many obstacles: she doesn't fit in, Shekhar is uncooperative, and the family is unkind. But she is strong-willed and refuses to give up on her patient. She asks Shekhar's son, Yuvraj Vikram Singh Rathore (Fawad Afzal Khan), to encourage his father to take the physical therapy sessions seriously.
When Mili discovers and talks to Shekhar about the family tragedy that put him in a wheelchair, Shekhar's wife Nirmala Devi Rathore (Ratna Pathak) feels Mili is meddling in affairs that are none of her business. Nirmala confronts Mili with Vikram by her side. Mili doesn't let the chastisement interfere with her therapeutic work.
Mili: He's my patient, your highness. Half his problem is his guilt. If he can face it, then there's a lot of scope for improvement. Maybe ... maybe he can walk again.
Nirmala: No need to give Shekhar false expectations, doctor. We left no stone unturned in his care. And we never will.
Mili: I am his doctor, your highness. I cannot lose hope of him getting better again. You are not convinced. I understand. But as long as I am here, I'll do the best I can.
She leaves, calms herself, then confronts wheelchair-bound Shekhar.
Mili: You can't run, so you'll have to listen to me. Maybe I am just another doctor for you but for me, my patients are not just my job. If you're subborn, then so am I. What does this mean that you don't want to get well? If you don't want to get well, then why call me? Look ... you have another son and a daughter. At least try for their sake. I understand that the Queen is not an easy woman to live with. But what else can the poor woman do? She has to handle everything and you're having an affair with this chair.
Mili's strengths are in her confidence in herself and and her ability to speak her mind. Vikram watches Mili change the atmosphere of the Rathore estate. He even discovers that she is quite capable of changing Vikram, if he lets her.
After making a beneficial business deal influenced by Mili's idealistic worldview, the two find themselves alone to reflect on the day's events.
Mili: Something looks different here, doesn't it?
Mili looks at Vikram then sighs.
Vikram: What happened?
Mili: I'm getting strange thoughts again, Viku.
Vikram: What are you, Mili? You say whatever's on your mind. No filter.
Mili: Why hesitate in speaking the truth?
Vikram: But that doesn't mean you speak what's on your mind. You should keep some things concealed in your heart.
Mili: Yes ... so that when we're old we have some regrets ... "I wish I had said that, or done that". I am not like that. I say whatever's on my mind.
Vikram: Nods. It's quite cold out here.
Mili: Here, take this. She wraps her blanket around him. They face each other, awkwardly, for several moments. Mili suddenly hugs Vikram. Vikram, I'm in love with you.
Vikram: Mili, please ...
They separate and Vikram leaves her side.
Mili's strength of character and straightforward approach to life brings fresh air into lives which have become stagnant under the oppression of unspoken words, suppressed emotions, and rigorous rules. In the end, lives are changed and love is allowed to blossom in all the right places.
Khoobsurat is a delightful romantic comedy that has Disney written all over it. With a thoroughly modern girl, an interesting royal family, and a cast of characters that bring humor and poignancy to the tale, this is a film that will lighten your spirit.
The following playlist features the trailer, characters profiles, and behind-the-scenes videos from the film.